We are surrounded by various relationships in our lives, like the relationship with our spouse, parents, in-laws, children, siblings, colleagues, etc. Relationships are an inevitable part of our life. They bring us joy and sometimes are painful too. No relationship can always be happy. Even the relationship with our parents, who love us unconditionally, cannot always be happy and beautiful. Just like roses come with thorns, relationships also come with friction. Friction happens because we all have different viewpoints. We all are evolving, learning, and none of us are perfect.
There are several factors that enhance relationships and reduce friction like – gratitude, forgiveness, love, patience, understanding, etc. In addition to these factors, there is one aspect that is important for relationships to thrive, but this factor is often overlooked. It is acceptance.
The main reason why people cannot practice acceptance in relationships is high expectations. In many relationships, when people love someone, they expect too much from the other person. They expect the other person to change. They expect the other person to give up their habits and change their lifestyle. They expect the other person to behave in line with their expectations. But these expectations are impractical from the viewpoint of the other person, and they cannot be fulfilled.
Below are the 5 problems that expectations cause in relationships.
1. Other person starts feeling like in a bondage, and they feel their freedom is restricted.
2. The relationship turns out into a nagging state, and the other person tries to avoid giving time to the relationship.
3. Expectations lead to friction and fights in relationships.
4. After a point of time, relationships break down when loaded with too many expectations.
5. Expectations drain the energies of both the people involved in the relationship.
So, does this mean that you should accept everything the other person does? No. When someone is not treating you with respect and dignity in a relationship, set the expectations right when the first instance happens. Don’t wait too long. Be assertive and tell the other person what you expect out of the relationship. There are the same basic rights that every person deserves. When these are violated in your relationship, be assertive and communicate openly. Things like respect and dignity are not expectations. They are basic human rights. At the same time, make sure you are treating the other person, too, with respect and dignity.
Apart from these basic human rights, don’t expect too many things in any relationship. People try to change small habits of the other person like – the way they fold their clothes, the way they eat food, their wake-up time, their relationships with other people, their gadget time etc. They try to make the other person believe in what they believe in. They try to force their viewpoint on the other person. Such expectations lead to friction and problems in relationships.
An important aspect to remember and practice in relationships is acceptance. We all have some habits which we want to change and are unable to change despite our best efforts. If we are unable to change our selves, how can we expect the other person to change their habits for us? Impractical, isn’t it? One thing we should remember on the journey of relationships is – acceptance.
Expectation binds the other person, and acceptance frees. Love cannot flourish when there are too many expectations. Love can only flourish with acceptance. When we accept the other person as they are and love them unconditionally, they start experiencing freedom in the relationship, and their better side comes out. They feel trusted and loved and start giving their best. The day you stop changing someone and accepting as they are, ironically, the other person starts changing and becoming better. Such a relationship that is built on acceptance becomes a deeply fulfilling experience for both people.
Below are some pointers on how to practice acceptance in relationships.
1. Understand that every person is entitled to lead their life in their own way. As long as their habits and lifestyle are not impacting you and them negatively, don’t interfere.
2. Don’t nag anyone. Not even your child. If you think something can help the other person, give it as a suggestion once and leave it there. Nagging does not help or change anyone. It only leads to frustration.
3. Sit together and create minimum expectations clearly. Tell upfront what you expect and why you expect these basic things. Give the other person also a fair chance to express their basic expectations from the relationship. Come to common ground and stick to these expectations.
4. Inspire others with your lifestyle. Remember one rule clearly in relationships – others cannot be forced to change. They can only be inspired.
5. Don’t enforce your viewpoints on others. Understand that every person evolves at their own pace and in their own way.
6. Respect other person’s freedom as much as you want the other person to respect your freedom.
7. Give space to each other in relationships.
8. Practice meditation regularly. This tool helps you to develop the inner strength to accept others as they are.
9. You can repeat this affirmation regularly – I accept myself and everyone as they are.
10. Accepting yourself does not mean you don’t improve in life. Accepting yourself means being happy with who you are. You can be happy with who you are and still aspire for improvement because you have infinite potential in you, and the sky is the limit for improvement.
11. When it comes to accepting children as they are, it does not mean that you don’t set the rules of discipline. Create the rules of discipline together with the child instead of you deciding alone and enforcing the rules. Sit with the child and explain why you expect the child to follow certain rules of discipline. Ask the viewpoints of the child and come to common ground. If the child cannot follow some rules, become buddy and friend of the child and help the child follow the rules. For example, if a child is addicted to junk food already, cutting down the junk food suddenly one day will not change the child. Replace unhealthy junk food with something healthy that the child likes. Reduce junk food gradually rather than cutting it out completely.
These are some ways to practice acceptance in relationships. When you accept people as they are, they feel nourished, strengthened, and loved for who they are. They look up to you and value your presence in their life because they know you accept them as they are. Along with the other person, you are also benefited when you practice acceptance. When you start accepting other people as they are, you gain inner peace and freedom. Your energies are conserved.
Accept yourself. Accept everyone.